Can you imagine a hostel in the middle of the ocean? It exists and it is called Casa En El Agua! When we decided not go to Palomino between Santa Marta and Cartagena we needed a nice, Caribbean alternative. Lukas quickly found the Casa En El Agua – a hostel right in the Caribbean sea.
It looked and sounded amazing, there was just one problem: In a house in the middle of the ocean there is no internet connection. I had the formidable idea (sometimes self-praise is justified) that we could just take a vacation for a change! This might sound weird if you follow us on Instagram etc. But we have actually not taken a real „vacation“ for months. In Peru, we took two long weekends for our treks with Apus Peru but those were hard work 😀
Opinions about the Casa En El Agua are very opposing so we decided to take the whole thing under a close examination. Therefore, if you are undecided if you want to head there or not this article might help you make up your mind. We literally did almost all the activities during our stay – except for subwing diving and wakeboarding.
First Things First: Why We Got The Stay For Free
To go to the Casa En El Agua we decided to take a full week off. Off, also in the sense of being offline. Since we decided rather last minute (two weeks before) the house was mostly booked out – except for the most expensive accommodation, a private room. I was already feeling a bit guilty because it was really expensive. But curse (for the casa) or luck (for us) struck … and we eventually got the stay for free! Right in the night before going to the hostel we received an email telling us that a storm had damaged the roof and that our room was not available… (fuck) but that they had arranged for us to sleep in their brand new second hostel, just across the water. To make up for the inconvenience we got the whole accommodation for free. Say whaaaat?
But curse (for the casa) or luck (for us) struck … and we eventually got the stay for free! Right in the night before going to the hostel we received an email telling us that a storm had damaged the roof and that our room was not available… (fuck) but that they had arranged for us to sleep in their brand new second hostel, just across the water. To make up for the inconvenience we got the whole accommodation for free. Say whaaaat?
Getting To The Casa En El Agua
As mentioned before, the Casa En El Agua is in the middle of the Caribbean sea. Therefore you can only get there by boat… duh. Bright and early in the morning we headed to Cartagena’s harbor and waited for the designated boat to show up. When it finally came, we, plus a pretty large group of excited backpackers got on it. Some other tourist asked the skipper if this was the boat to some beach and the skipper replied: “No, this one goes to a private island and you need to book up front.” Can you imagine how cool we felt? Well, pretty cool.
The boat ride to the Casa En El Agua takes about 2 hours on high speed. For a while, we went along the coast of Colombia but at some point turned right and headed straight out towards the open sea. Eventually, some land appeared again. The Casa En El Agua is not just sitting there all by itself. There are some islands around it and even three more houses of similar style neighboring to it.
When we finally arrived the view was awesome. It is always great when something looks just like it does on pictures 🙂
About The Hostel
After an initial tour around the house (including bathroom instructions: drop down toilet plus one bucket of sweet water per person/day to shower) we knew our way around. As you can see in the pictures, the Casa En El Agua is made up of two floors. The ground floor includes a chill-out platform, ocean access, dining area, bar, kitchen and two bathrooms. On the second floor are the bedrooms, dorms and an open space with hammocks.
On the second floor, you find the bedrooms, dorms and an open space with hammocks. The casa is surrounded by a national park and therefore the underwater landscape is remarkable. Many animals, corals and plants are right outside (literally, one jump away) so snorkeling and exploring this area is great.
Being Drunk Around Noon Is Hard To Avoid
In the casa itself you can either chill, slackline or (if you dare), jump from a platform on the second floor. We did all of these things on day two and had a great time. Since there is a limited amount of accommodations, it never gets too crowded in the hostel and there was always someone pleasant around to talk to. We frequently visited the bar – our open tab kind of led us to some mild alcoholism 😉 The drinks were very good and we had to spend our money on something. Since we already had paid the price for the accommodation up front we basically had an open tab on all things food, tours and drinks. If you do not have an open tab this is pretty expensive though. If we had to actually pay for everything I would’ve been pretty reluctant to do anything really. I get it, it is a house in the ocean. But it does feel very overpriced. The hostel offers a bunch of activities and tours for an extra charge (of course). These are the ones we tried:
If you do not have an open tab this is pretty expensive though. If we had to actually pay for everything I would’ve been pretty reluctant to do anything really. I get it, it is a house in the ocean. But it does feel very overpriced. The hostel offers a bunch of activities and tours for an extra charge (of course). These are the ones we tried:
1. Island and Beach Tintipan
Imagine what you consider a tropical paradise… You probably see a white beach, crystal blue water, palm trees, and cocktails. That is exactly what we found at Tintipan beach. What an incredible piece of Earth. Until we got picked up again, we spent most of the time either neck-deep in the water or in the shade because our heat resistance is really bad. It is hard for us to do nothing. This first day of our vacation was challenging because we are used to days full of productivity.
2. Plankton Tour (By Night Of Course)
In the evening we did the plankton tour. Even though I am scared of going into the water at night I decided to do this. Everyone had told me how amazing it is and I felt like I just have to get over myself and do it.
It really was worth it. Yes, I was scared. But it was very manageable because I could make my own light via the plankton. Just one thing that I didn’t know: You have to constantly move to illuminate the plankton. I thought that it will just stay “on” for a while once I move within it. So I was just paddling around like an idiot to keep the light on for the whole duration of the tour – pretty exhausting.
3. Snorkel Trip
On the third day, I did the snorkeling tour the hostel offers. It costs 30k and is about 1,5 hours. Pretty corals, lots of fish and all the beauty of the ocean is what I expect from a snorkeling trip. Because of how beautiful the area around the hostel is I had high hopes. To be honest, the snorkeling trip was a bit of a let down. The driver suddenly stopped somewhere (seemingly in the open water) and told us to jump off the boat. I immediately got nervous because I a) hate to go into the if I can’t see what is below me and b) have watched “Open Water” and that just makes me even more nervous to be left behind etc.
I decided to just suck it up and do the leap… the water was a bit murky because the sea was rather rough but there definitely were some things to look at. A lot of rocks with different sea life gathered around it. Yes, it was interesting. But no, it was not mind-blowingly beautiful or anything like that. So as I said, a bit underwhelming.
4. Islote – The Most Densely Populated Island In the World
As the headline already says: Islote is the most densely populated island in the world. They even have a certificate that says so – in for of a Guinness World Record. You can see the island from the Casa En El Agua and the tour to Islote is about an hour long. It was pretty cool, even though the island is tiny it seems rather organized and they have everything from school to hospital in some form or another. A huge antenna provides the island with Internet. Trash gets shipped off to the mainland. Overall they seem to have it figured out.
For tourists, they offer a quick tour and they have installed an “aquarium” – something they consider as tourist gold. We did actually not like it very much and the staff from the Casa En El Agua also warned us about it. It is crammed full of fish and includes two full grown sharks. The sharks are so big in comparison to the basins that they can’t even turn around. A very sad view. So if you ever go there please don’t encourage the islanders by swimming in the pools or telling them that this is cool. Overall the trip to Islote was pretty fascinating.
All Things Food
The accommodation in the Casa En El Agua includes a breakfast. This always varies but was most of the time something including an egg, an arepa, juice and oatmeal. It was definitely nice and filling. Lunch and dinner cost extra but because you can’t access the kitchen there is not really an alternative. Also, lunch and dinner time are the best times to met new people and to start conversations. On top of that, the meals were all very healthy and definitely delicious. The vegetarian options surprised us many times since they were original and tasty. You can bring your own food if that is what you want. The Casa En El Agua is already pretty expensive so you might want to save some money. But again: You can’t cook anything and there is also no fridge for you to store perishables. Water is available all day long without any fee btw.
By the third day, we were a bit over our sleeping arrangements. The hostel that we slept in was in a mangrove forest, just a 3-minute boat ride away. But it lacked all the charm of the Casa En El Agua: Loud air con, normal bathrooms, a huge and loud generator running all the time, no people. We never got informed at what times there would be electricity and water because said generator was only working sometimes. So sometimes we arrived at the hostel in the night (no staff anywhere) and the toilet flush wouldn’t work and we couldn’t brush our teeth. This was pretty frustrating.
Due to the location of the hostel within a forest, there was also never any ventilation but a lot of mosquitos. So we spent all the nights sweating and worrying about bites. Not the best, since I had been looking forward to magical nights in the open sea. But then again – it is hard to complain about a free accommodation. I feel like the staff could’ve really had a better eye and handle on this though.
The other thing I didn’t like is that you really had to pay for EVERYTHING. I get it that food and drinks are extra and even expensive. But I thought it was a bit petty to put a price-tag on everything. The website made it sound like you can just grab a snorkel set and explore around the house or chill on a stand-up paddle for a while. But even to just take goggles to take a look at the structure of the house you have to pay. They make money on everything else (and not just a small amount) so they could really offer some free stuff. If you come to the hostel with a tight budget you’ll end up just sitting around and reading. And according to Lukas (that is how he spent his time there) that gets old reeeeally damn fast.
Very good 🙂 I think this is probably the coolest place I have ever been to. I am a bit biased because we really were pretty lucky to get the stay for free. Even with our initial payment as an open tab though, we still paid on top at the end. The Casa En El Agua is a crazy expensive undertaking. But you will get rewarded with a great vibe, amazing sunsets and an experience that you can’t get anywhere else really. Or if you can you really need to tell me where 😉
A final tip: Don’t stay too short and don’t stay too long. It is nice if you have more than one night because you won’t feel the pressure to do everything right away. But if you stay more than 2-3 nights you will potentially feel a slight bit of boredom creeping up on you – together with a serious hole in your travel budget.
Also published on Medium.